Burrowing owls, Sierra Club, and the world's largest solar farm

8minuteenergy Renewables and the Sierra Club partnered to plan for what could become the world's largest solar farm.

Burrowing owls live in the drains and canals found in California farmland. Efforts were made to protect that habitat. (Image credit: Wikipedia Commons)

The zombie argument that environmentalists oppose green energy can be dismissed with one word: cooperation. 8minutenergy Renewables and the Sierra Club found common interest in building what could become the world's largest solar form.

8minuteenergy received final approvals to break ground on the project last week. The planned 600 megawatts (MW) solar farm will be located in Imperial Valley, Calif., and be built in three phases beginning in June. Its timetable was set by cooperating with environmental groups.

The Sierra Club has issues with solar farms being sited on what they consider to be pristine desert land, said 8minuteenergy president Tom Buttgenbach. The company opted to instead be "smart from the start" and build on low productivity farmland, which has the added benefit of reducing water consumption.

And then there were the burrowing owls. Burrowing owls live in canals and drains on the sight, and are a species of concern. That means that the owl is not endangered, but potentially could become endangered. Far too often, this type of issue becomes a roadblock that could delay or derail a project.

8minuteenergy instead collaborated with Audubon California, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Natural Resources Defense Council to preserve owl habitat. The company also engaged the community with a program to educate farmers and people who come in contact with owls on ways to coexist, Buttgenbach said.

"This project is not just green, but enhances the environment in other dimensions...we are very proud of this partnership. It's not always easy, but both sides are fighting for the same goals, and ultimately it can be done."

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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